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25 September 2016

Valuing the work that women do

Deloitte’s recent analysis of the gender pay gap, which received extensive media coverage, is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics. It shows that the difference in the hourly pay gap between men and women is closing at a rate of just 2.5 pence per annum, but that in certain occupations, such as skilled trades and education, the gap is actually widening. Even in female-dominated occupations, such as teaching and caring, men receive considerably higher average pay. At this rate, Deloitte calculate the gender pay gap will not close for another 53 years.

Deloitte’s solution is for more to be done to encourage girls from an early age to understand the impact that their choice of studies can have on their career options, and to encourage them to consider careers in science, engineering and technology (the STEM subjects).
Emma Codd
Emma Codd, Managing Partner for Talent at Deloitte, said: 

“We know that the pay gap is far smaller for those women starting their careers in STEM related roles; we also know that high-skilled jobs demanding a blend of cognitive, social and technical skills are typically among the most highly-paid. Therefore, if more women study STEM subjects and pursue related careers they will increase their earnings potential in the early years of their working lives and - should they remain in their careers - the later ones. This in turn should serve to reduce the gender pay gap.”
All well and good, and of course we should be doing this. But we also need to take a long hard look at the value we place on jobs. The traditionally female roles of cleaning and caring, for example, are just as important to society’s well-being as are science and technology. Nowadays we take cleaning entirely for granted, but without it there would be disease – think MRSA within hospitals, or gastro-enteritis in cafes and restaurants. And as for caring, why do we pay people more for looking after our cars than we do for looking after our older and frailer citizens? The usual answer – that the market sets the rates of pay – only begs further questions, like who or what is the market and why does it set a higher value on things than it does on people? In short, where are its moral values?

As Deloitte recognises, the gender pay gap has a variety of complex causes, and it will take a flexible and sustainable approach to eliminate it. One of those approaches is to encourage girls to go into higher paid work; another is to set a proper value on the work which women do.

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